Fwd: ex-acronyms

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Wed Sep 6 04:19:34 UTC 2006

a correspondent writes in response to my endless Language Postings on
university names:

Begin forwarded message:

> ... Regarding UMIST, SRI and Texas A&M [all of which i mentioned in
> my postings], is there a term for acronyms [ok, initialisms] that
> have been officially stripped of their meanings?  I can add NCR to
> the list: I worked for them one summer several years after they
> changed their name from National Cash Register, and when I
> committed the faux pas of asking what NCR now stood for, I had to
> endure an embarrassed silence.

real acronyms (like "radar" and "scuba") settle into the mist pretty
quickly, so there's really no need for a special word.  what about
initialisms that have been opacified by institutional fiat?  they're
a special case, and might merit their own label.  is there one?



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